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About Us

My name is Maria Pretorius

 I'm a Specific Learning Difficulty (SpLD) Assessor and Specialist Teacher

M.Ed., PGCert. SpLD (Dyslexia), Patoss (TCP)(APC), AMBDA

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My Story

As a new parent you don't always have a frame of reference to help you know and understand whether your child is reaching their developmental milestones as they should.  You tend to compare your child to other children to help you figure this out, but when you realise that your child is developing much slower in certain areas you can't help but be concerned.  


When my daughter was diagnosed with dyslexia, it opened my eyes to the neurodiverse world.  Her diagnosis was amazing for our family as we came to realise how similar our own difficulties were.  It helped us to consider both our strengths and difficulties and it reminded me of an olive tree. Although an olive tree is one of the slowest growing trees in nature, nobody ever underestimates its value.  


However, I quickly realised how little support there was as a parent. Understanding and navigating what your child is going through is no easy task, so I turned to the books.  Studying did not come easy for me and during my post graduate studies, I was diagnosed with dyspraxia.  My diagnosis gave me a front row seat on the roller coaster ride through all the challenges and delights of raising a neurodivergent child, while learning to understand and manage my own SpLD.  



After my daughter graduated from University I felt a sense of joy and relief that I never through I would be able to experience.  Knowing that there are many parents with neurodivergent children, who also worry about their child's future, I decided that it was time I put my years of research and experience to use to help other families at the start of their journeys - renewing their hope.  


So the seed sprouted, and Olive Tree Neurodiversity Ltd. began to grow, and is still growing. 

Having gained a Masters Degree in Education, I have an understanding of how complex neurodiversity is.  I knew that I would not be able to meet those needs all by myself and I would not be able to help everyone.  Olive Tree then started growing  a network of experienced specialist teachers and coaches who are just  as passionate about providing tailored support to individual needs as I am.


Now our collective areas of specialisation cover all the co-morbidities of dyslexic type difficulties, ADHD, ASD and SEMH. 


Our mission is to empower families and individuals with specific learning difficulties (SpLD) to,

  • understand, and have compassion with your own and each other's strengths and difficulties,

  • take accountability to improve your skills and reach your potential,

  • build resilience, so your difficulties won't define who you are.

Picture of Marlene and Christel, taken during her graduation in 2022
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 Olive Tree Values

When one person in the family has received diagnosis (or investigating the possibility) of having learning disability, it doesn’t just affect the child or individual. It affects the whole family. Everyone in the family will try to understand what it means, and what adjustments may need to be made to accommodate their neurodiverse needs.

 Knowledge of these difficulties often leaves parent with the dilemma of understanding how to balance parenting with compassion for their child's difficulties.  How do I help my child understand and come to terms with this? Which part of their behaviour is them really being unable to do something, and which part is just them testing their boundaries.  How do you balance your parenting with compassion for your child's needs?  It is an emotional journey and a vulnerable place to be and it can affect people's mental health.  

When we went through this as a young family it was very difficult to find help and support that supported our Christian values.  I therefore strongly believe that it is important to work with the family/individual's own core values when we are delivering a coaching programme.  We will always encourage families to write down and agree on a set of core values that nobody can take away from them, even when things go wrong in life.  These are the type of things that will help you to build your resilience and support one another when things get difficult.  

Although our programmes are not exclusively Christian, we have developed a series of Bible studies for Christian families who are interested.  Please do ask about it when you get in touch. 

A tree with well nourished roots will flourish and bear fruit.  

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